By Mayo Clinic staff
A breast self-exam for breast awareness is an inspection of your breasts that you do on your own. To help increase your breast awareness, you use your eyes and hands to observe the look and feel of your breasts.
If you notice new breast changes, discuss these with your health care provider. Though most breast changes detected during a breast self-exam have benign causes, some changes may signal something serious, such as breast cancer. Medical professionals believe there is value in women being familiar with their own breasts, so they understand what's normal and promptly report changes.
A breast lump is a growth of tissue that develops within your breast. It may be described as a mass, growth, swelling, thickness or fullness. A breast lump can vary in the way it looks and feels. If you have a breast lump, you may notice:
- A distinct lump with definite borders
- A thickened, slightly more prominent area in your breast that's different from surrounding breast tissue
- Other breast changes, such as redness, dimpling or pitting of the skin
- One breast that's noticeably larger than the other
- Nipple changes, such as a nipple that's pulled inward (nipple inversion) or spontaneous fluid discharge from your nipple
- Breast pain or tenderness
Sometimes, a breast lump is a sign of breast cancer. That's why you should seek prompt medical evaluation. Fortunately, however, most breast lumps result from noncancerous (benign) conditions.
- A breast lump can develop as a result of conditions, such as:
- Breast cancer
- Breast cysts
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Hamartoma, a noncancerous tumor in the breast
- Injury or trauma to the breast
Make an appointment with your health care provider to have a breast lump evaluated, especially if:
- The breast lump is new or unusual and feels different from surrounding tissue or from tissue in your other breast
- The breast lump doesn't go away or gets bigger after your next menstrual period
- The breast lump changes — gets bigger, firmer or more defined from surrounding breast tissue
- You have bloody, possibly spontaneous, discharge from your nipple
- You notice skin changes on your breast, such as redness, crusting, dimpling or puckering
- Your nipple is turned inward (inverted), although it isn't normally positioned that way
If you need a family health care provider, go to mayoclinichealthsystem.org, and select the location nearest you.